The Bread of Life and the Breadless Life
Tues 31st March
India is home to the largest number of hungry people in the world, accounting for more than 20% of the total. (Times of India, 2008) With the rise of inflation in the economy and with the adverse effects of climate change now being realized, food crisis has been a grave need for our times. The ratio of the food production and food consumption in India has been so glaring that the food produced is not enough to satisfy the needs of the common people. On the contrary huge amounts of food grains are exported, which is part of the globalisation technique incorporated into developing countries. Therefore, the old famous saying once again comes to the forefront, ‘India has enough for its needs not for its greed’. With the greed of the few rich people increasing, the needs of the common people are not met. Local foods are now replaced with fast food and tin goods that are imported. What is the way out in the context of food crisis?
Jesus Christ in his times addressed food crisis, which has relevance for our times also. Jesus started preaching to the huge crowds that have been gathered near the shore, and had compassion for the people for they were like sheep without shepherd, and began to teach several things. And when it grew late, his disciples informed Jesus to send people away to buy and eat their own food, for it was a lonely place. But Jesus immediately was conscious of their needs and attempted to solve the hunger of those people then and there.
Jesus critiqued the culture of consumerism
When Jesus said to his disciples to give them something to eat, his disciples immediately replied, ‘are we to buy two hundred denarii’s worth bread and give it to them to eat?’ Jesus, by feeding the five thousand, critiqued the culture of consumerism, where buying from outside is its norm. The culture of consumerism is driven on the very value of profit, which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer and has no concern to the holistic good of the society.
Jesus made use of local recipes
When the disciples were more concerned about the cost of the food to be served, Jesus then enquired, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” The disciples found they had five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus to feed the five thousand made use of the local recipes to feed the five thousand, the bread and the fish, which were the local staple foods.
Jesus organised the people into groups
Jesus then commanded the people to be organised into groups by hundreds and fifties on the green grass, so that the food will be served equally, probably meeting the needs of the children and women with a preferential option.
Jesus broke the loaves and divided the fish
Jesus then took the loaves of bread and fish and looked up to heavens seeking the help of God, the baker of bread and the maker of fish, so that these local recipes would be shared among all the people. Jesus did this to share among all with what they have, with the available local resources.
Jesus ordered the disciples to collect the remains
Jesus asked the disciples to collect the remains, which they did, and collected it in twelve baskets. This is to teach people there not to waste and to eat according to the need and not according to the greed.
In our times today we as Church need to teach our congregations on food management, food sovereignty, food security, to share, to remind our people to be conscious of the people in need and to make use of the local recipes and resources to combat food crisis. Time and again our churches have romanticised this passage and have described bread and fish as spiritual food to be given to all people around, and have least been bothered about the needs of those people who are hungry and without food. It is said that “the Bible is not a cake to be taken on occasions but is a bread that is to be eaten daily”, and it is easy to be self-content with such reading of Bible every day, without living according to it. When we pray “Give us today our daily bread”, this prayer reminds us that we need to be conscious to the needs of those without bread and food, and our prayer needs to be translated into actions. Let us all strive to make our ‘bread of life’ more relevant by sharing food with those that are hungry.
Rev Raj Patta is a presbyter in the United Stockport Circuit.